Let’s be honest; 2020 was a lot to take in.
Amidst the politics, pandemic and sheer pandemonium of it all, it’s understandable to feel like the whole year was wasted.
As much of a pleasure it is to usher in the new year, let’s take a step back and look upon the good that did come out of the past year.
For the most part, we Malaysians have always put a united and harmonious front throughout the years. When COVID-19 rolled around, it was time to turn these sayings into testimony.
As the world went into lockdown and our economy took a turn for the worst, Malaysians of all walks of life banded together to help our own in any way we could.
Hashtags like #SapotLokal and #KitaJagaKita became a way of life for us, not just a cheesy social media stunt like those ‘One Like = One Prayer’ gimmicks.
But Was It Enough?
It can’t be denied that last year’s movement control order (MCO) affected virtually every Malaysian in some way. However, it also can’t be denied that some were more badly affected than others.
Despite our best efforts, many Malaysians found their post-MCO lives drastically different compared to before.
Last June, JobStreet released a study revealing that as many as one out of five Malaysians — over two million people! — risked being retrenched. JobStreet country manager Gan Bock Herm warned that many more people could be at risk.
“Most of the retrenched employees are less tenured, from the low-income segment and from the part-time workforce in small organisations,” he said. “These workers are also largely from the tourism/travel, hospitality/catering, mass transportation, education and retail industries.”
The situation was even worse for those who were already struggling to survive before the pandemic. For those who were relying on charity aid to get by, it’s hard to overstate how much pressure the MCO added to their already difficult lives.
What Happens When The Donations Run Out?
As the pandemic flared up, many charities struggled to match the sudden surge in demand.
In April 2020, several NGOs raised alarm bells as they began running out of food, warning that thousands of people could be at risk of starvation.
“Everything is expensive and a lot of things have run out,” said Mohammad Sadek Ali Hussain during an interview with Free Malaysia Today. As a volunteer teacher at a refugee school, Sadek had been distributing donated food items to refugees in his area since the beginning of MCO in March 2020.
“We don’t have enough food or supplies… we’re struggling to survive,” he admitted.
And it’s not just in KL either. Support group Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia (MEHROM) reported that many refugees in Melaka, Negeri Sembilan and Johor were struggling to get by.
“Every day I hear things from other states. People crying, calling me and asking for help,” said MEHROM president Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani. “It’s not just us refugees who are struggling, Malaysians themselves are also struggling.”
Who’s Ready For MCO 2.0?
As Malaysians resign themselves to another year of restrictions and uncertainty, mental health experts are warning that the new MCO will also bring a rise in anger, anxiety and depression.
Last year’s MCO saw an increase in issues such as suicide and domestic violence as many people cracked under the pressure of intense social isolation. According to psychologist Lihanna Borhan of International Islamic University Malaysia, such issues could rise again unless preventative measures are taken by government agencies and NGOs alike.
“There should also be a concerted effort between government agencies and NGOs,” she said. “We cannot allow Befrienders to carry the burden. A lot of NGOs are involved with this and with concerted efforts a lot can be done.”
Lihanna pointed out that after the experiences of the first MCO, many Malaysians are growing more concerned about their livelihood.
“Businesses were just kicking in, starting their business again in the new year. Now, they are hit by another MCO,” she said.
Lending A Helping Hand
Last year, we did our part to help those in need by organising a charity drive for the Lighthouse Children Welfare Home.
A local orphanage based in Bangsar, Lighthouse has been providing shelter for some of the most vulnerable children in our community since 2007. The home is run by Mr and Mrs Steven, who have both given up their respective careers to become full-time foster parents to the children. Today, they care for over 60 children, with ages ranging from two to 25 years old.
In the spirit of giving, The Full Frontal in collaboration with our sister companies FOREMATION, FOREFRONT and Foreward, put together a Secret Santa present for all of the children at Lighthouse. In addition, we also donated a wide range of useful household items such as shampoo, toothbrushes and dish washing liquid to keep them well stocked up.
How Else Can We Help?
Yet despite our best efforts, our help was simply patching over a problem at best. Like many NGOs, Lighthouse constantly struggles with funding. Their total running costs come to over RM12,000 per child each year, with a total running cost of approximately RM800,000.
As this year’s new round of lockdowns sink in, NGOs such as Lighthouse will struggle to stay afloat as their regular donations dry up once again.
In times like this, it is natural for everyone to want to secure their own livelihoods first. After all, we all have our own homes and families to worry about.
However, if you are in a position to give to those in need, reach out and give what you can. Even if it feels like a small thing to you, even a little bit of kindness can make all the difference in the world for someone in need.